How likely is it that a Brazilian MK and an eastern Washington “cowgirl” would get together, begin a home and a family, and then serve together over thirty years in Brazil? That is our story, to the glory of God!
Miles first went to Brazil with his missionary parents when he was only two years old. He was raised in Brazil and spent most of his educational years at the MK boarding school that his parents went to Brazil to establish. He returned to the states in 1968 and after graduation began attending New Tribes Bible Institute in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Enter, the cowgirl from Washington! Coleen was raised on a small horse ranch outside of Spokane, Washington. At the age of seventeen she was invited to church where after a couple of Sundays in attendance, she accepted Christ as her Lord and Savior. Two years later she was also leaving home to attend NTBI-Waukesha. They met at the beginning of Miles’s last semester at school and were married the following summer – July 9, 1971.
We decided to go to Brazil for the birth of our first son before continuing the missionary training with NTM. Andy’s birth in Brazil made him a Brazilian citizen and eased the way for us to later receive our permanent residency visa. After finishing the NTM training and a year of partnership development (and one more baby boy), we went to Brazil to begin our career as missionaries with NTM. Three more children (a boy and two girls) were born to our family in the ensuing years and they all graduated from the boarding school where Miles had attended. Our family has become quite international as two of our children with spouses (and 4 grandchildren) are in Asia, one and spouse (and 2 grandchildren) are in Africa and two with spouses (and 8 grandchildren) are in the USA while we continue in Brazil.
Support ministry has been our broad job description and it includes many things from outdoor maintenance/construction and buyer, teaching, office work, dorm parents, and teaching Bible studies to name a few. We have served at the national training centers and for the majority of our career at the boarding school. Though support ministry may be considered by some to be mundane and ordinary (and indeed it is sometimes), it has provided us with the opportunity to be actively involved in challenging, evangelizing, and discipling in many lives.
For the last three decades we have worked alongside our national brothers and sisters in Brazil. We have led them, taught them, worked with them and been led by them. We are blessed to call them our co-workers. Though the work of NTM in Brazil was initiated by “foreigners,” it is now a very Brazilian ministry. Of the current 250 members of the eastern section of Missao Novas Tribos do Brasil (the Brazilian arm of NTM), 209 of these members are Brazilian, 2 are from countries other than America, and 39 are from the USA.
More recently, God has given us a vision and a passion to be involved in member care for our co-workers in Brazil. We want to be able to sit where they sit, listen to their stories, encourage them and champion them in the progress they are making. We want to pray with them and cry with them when things are difficult, the progress is slow, and the way seems unclear. We want to invest our time and energies into a full time ministry of member care to God’s servants in Brazil.
This decision and desire comes at a time when we find ourselves naturally in transition. We have ended a chapter of thirty two years of ministry at the MK school and sense God releasing and directing us to a new challenge. Efficient member care is an essential ingredient to the emotional and spiritual long term work of any missionary. We have been the recipients of this care. We also saw this need first hand as we visited several missionary families last year in the northeastern region of Brazil. We saw how we could be involved in a number of practical ways to be an encouragement to our brethren. Helping those who are working in these physically, spiritually, and emotionally difficult places, we will be asisting those who are directly involved in taking the Gospel to some of the 245 tribal groups of Brazil, as well as encouraging those who are involved in administration and representation, and those teaching and serving at the training centers for national workers. As we care for our co-workers – couples, families, and single folks – our desire will be to encourage and enable them to continue in dynamic and passionate ministry to those who have yet to hear the Gospel of Christ.